Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Playing Politics over Social Security Privatization

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Playing Politics over Social Security Privatization

Article excerpt

The debate over privatization of Social Security has apparently entered the Twilight Zone.

"Democrats are desperate to engage in this debate," says Hans Riemer, a policy analyst at the Institute for America's Future in Washington. "They are trying every trick in the book to make the Republicans talk about this issue."

Public opinion polls tell Democrats that standing tall as the protector of Social Security from Republican privatizers is a good way to win votes.

Contrariwise, Republicans are keen to avoid the issue. Their polls tell them of the same political risk.

The result is what Mr. Riemer calls Washington "craziness."

In the House, Democrats have been collecting signatures for a "discharge petition" on privatization legislation. These bills would turn part of the Social Security tax over to individual retirement accounts that could be invested in corporate shares and bonds.

Democrats want a vote on these measures even though most of them don't want them passed. They want their Republican opponents on record on the issue before the fall election.

Democrats even drafted three bills that would implement the three different privatization proposals that came out of President Bush's Social Security commission last winter.

At that time, Mr. Bush said the issue should be put off for a year of discussion. But he has said little about Social Security since then, and certainly hasn't pushed Congress for a privatization bill.

"The American people have a right to hear about these issues before the election," says Cody Harris, spokesman for California Rep. Robert Matsui, ranking Democrat on the Social Security subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. …

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